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Briceville readies for new fire station

Anderson County officials last week presented a check to members of the Bricev- ille Volunteer Fire Department for the county’s contribution to the construction of a new fire station. Pictured in front, from left, are County Commissioner Shain Vowell, Briceville Fire Chief Jamie Brewster, Commissioner Tim Isbel, County Mayor Terry Frank, and members of the Briceville Volunteer Fire Department’s board of directors.
Two-and-a-half years since announcing plans to build a new fire station with a grant and loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a contribution from Anderson County, Briceville is ready to begin work on the facility.

When the plans were announced in late September 2019, construction was expected to begin within a month on the new station.

But the project hit some snags, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, supply-chain issues, and higher costs for building supplies.

The initial estimate of $184,000 to build the station soon rose by $75,000, and the Briceville Volunteer Fire Department had to scramble to come up with the extra money.

With the price increases, the department had to scale back the size of the project, just to limit the cost increase to the $75,000.

Now, the department has worked out the additional financing from the Anderson County Commission, so the project can finally begin, said Fire Chief Jamie Brewster said.

“Final details have been difficult to wrap up with rapid market changes, but we’re excited and very thankful we’re finally there,” Brewster said last week.

In June 2021, several members of the Briceville VFD attended Anderson County’s Budget Committee meeting to support a request for the County Commission to help cover the extra costs.

According to the Briceville fire officials, “Not only did the Budget Committee approve the request, but there was a unanimous vote from County Commission to get this project over the finish line.”

“This assistance to the Briceville Volunteer Fire Department is an acknowledgement from all the agencies involved of the importance of all volunteer fire departments to our rural communities,” said Shain Vowell, District 4 county commissioner, who, along with Tim Isbel, represents the Briceville community.

“I am proud to be a small part of the lifesaving work of these brave and self-sacrificing men and women,” he said.

Replacing a smaller building that has served the department for more than 42 years, the new station will be built on Tennessee Highway 16 just west of town.

The original estimated cost of the new steel building was to come from an $80,000 grant and a $74,200 40-year low-interest loan from the USDA’s Rural Development agency, along with a $30,000 contribution from Anderson County’s budget, Joe Woody, who was then area director for USDA’s Rural Development in Knoxville, said during the 2019 ceremony.

He and other USDA Rural Development representatives joined state and Anderson County officials at a park in Briceville for the 2019 announcement to recognize those responsible for helping the department secure the funding for the new station.

Leadership at the USDA has since changed. USDA Rural Development Area Specialist Kirk Morris is now seeing the project through completion.

The Briceville VFD hopes to move into the new station within a year and a half after construction begins, said Brewster, who is now in his sixth year as chief. He said the department has 18 volunteer firefighters and five trucks.

Duties of the department include handling fire suppression and prevention, as well as emergency medical calls.

Brewster works full time as an equipment operator for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. He previously worked 23 years for A&S Steel in Caryville, which shut down in late 2014. He’s been a volunteer firefighter for Briceville since 2000.

The new fire station will bring upgrades from the current station, including air conditioning, Brewster said. Initially, the station will have two bays for vehicles, but there are plans to add two more later, the chief said.

Architect for the fire station project is Gregory S. Campbell of Design Innovation Architects of Knoxville.

Excavation work at the site it being donated at no cost, Brewster said.

Donations to Briceville VFD can be sent to P.O. Box 238, Briceville, TN 37710.